The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 97-86 to extend their winning streak to four games. Even after the Magic decided to concede the fourth quarter on a case of boredom, this was a game that was never in doubt the moment both teams stepped on the floor. The Cavaliers, lacking a healthy dose of NBA talent with the absences of Baron Davis, Anderson Varejao, and others, didn’t have the players to pose a serious threat. It might explain the reason that Orlando decided to much around after leading by as many as 26 points in the game. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard was nearly perfect, finishing with 28 points, 18 rebounds, four steals, four blocks, and four assists. Howard was one steal, block, and assist away from accomplishing a rare 5×5 feat (when a player records five categories with at least five things in each category). Brandon Bass contributed with 22 points (9-of-10 shooting), six rebounds, and two steals. Ryan Anderson had 12 points, while Jason Richardson had 11 points. Aside from random moments in the game, there was a lack of competitive basketball being played.
To start things off, Cleveland trotted out a frontline that included Samardo Samuels, a player that belongs in the NBA D-League, to “match up” with Howard at the center position. That didn’t go so well, as Howard destroyed Samuels and treated him like nothing when he was on he court. As such, Samuels played limited minutes even though he was starting, and J.J. Hickson was forced to try to slow down Howard. Given that Hickson is 6-foot-9 and a natural power forward, that didn’t go so well either. To be honest, the only player that did a decent job of giving Howard any sort of trouble was Ryan Hollins, given that he had the length and athleticism to make things interesting.
Still, Howard had little difficulty doing whatever he wanted on offense, especially in the first half which was nothing more than a dunk-fest.
When Howard didn’t have the ball, Bass was another player for Orlando that had his way in the paint. There was little resistance between Bass and the rim. As a result, Bass attacked the basket with veracity and used his excellent lower-body strength to clear room in the paint for the sole purposing of dunking the basketball with power. Every so often, Bass would mix in a mid-range jumper along the perimeter but for the most part, he played big boy ball.
Because Howard and Bass had their way offensively, the Magic were able to rack up 30 points in the paint in the first half — out of 56. It says a lot that Orlando only had six points in the paint after halftime, given that they began settling for jumpers and not working the ball inside-out like they did in the first and second quarters when everything came easy for them on offense.
Aside from giving up a sizable lead to the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter, the only other criticism for the Magic was their turnovers. In total, Orlando accumulated 20 turnovers and that continues to be a problem for them. Turnovers are wasted possessions and unfortunately for the Magic, they’re not good enough to overcome them against elite teams.
It’s concerning that this continues to be a bad habit because if this situation isn’t rectified by the time the playoffs come around, head coach Stan Van Gundy will remain concerned.